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Railroad Companies - Page 2

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Chicago and Rock Island RailroadChicago and Rock Island Railroad (1847-1980) - Also known as the Rock Island Line, or, in its final years, as simply "The Rock,” it originally began as the Rock Island and La Salle Railroad Company, incorporated in Illinois in February, 1847. In 1851, it was changed to the Chicago and Rock Island Railroad. Construction began October 1, 1851, in Chicago, and the first train was operated on October 10, 1852, between Chicago and Joliet, Illinois. The railroad eventually stretched across Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas.


Over the years, the railroad thrived and in 1937, it introduced Diesel power to its passenger service, with the purchase of six lightweight Rocket streamliners. In 1964, the Rock Island began the process of merging with the Union Pacific Railroad, but the merger was mired in red tape, studies, and court hearings that drug on for ten years. One of the most complicated mergers in the history of the Interstate Commerce Commission, it eventually failed, leaving the Rock Island in bad financial condition. When Amtrak formed in 1971, the Rock Island did not join the group, instead continuing to operate its own passenger trains. The railroad also operated an extensive commuter train service in the Chicago area.


In March, 1975, the Rock Island Railroad entered its third and final bankruptcy. This eventually led to a strike by railroad workers in August 1979. By January, 1980, it was determined that the Rock Island Railroad could not be successfully reorganized and it was ordered to be liquidated and sold. It was the largest bankruptcy liquidation in U.S. history up until that time.


Denver & Rio Grande Western RailroadDenver & Rio Grande Western Railroad (1870-1996) - Generally referred to as the Rio Grande Railroad, the company was founded in 1870 by General William J. Palmer, a Union veteran of the Civil War. The organization first started by building a narrow gauge line south from Denver in 1871 toward Mexico. At its height, around 1890, the Rio Grande had the largest operating narrow gauge railroad network in North America. Continuing to expand, the railroad operated nearly 6,000 miles of track by 1917. It's name was officially changed to the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad in 1920, serving primarily Colorado and Utah. Over the years, the railroad built some of the most difficult tracks in existence including the highest mainline rail line in the United States (over 10,000 feet) at the Tennessee Pass in Colorado, as well as the famed routes through the Moffat Tunnel and the Royal Gorge. Rio Grande Industries purchased the Southern Pacific Railroad in September, 1988,  operating under the name Southern Pacific. Union Pacific and Southern Pacific merged in September, 1996.


Galveston, Harrisburg, and San Antonio RailroadGalveston, Harrisburg, & San Antonio Railroad - The Galveston, Harrisburg and San Antonio Railway Company was chartered on February 11, 1850, as the Buffalo Bayou, Brazos and Colorado Railway Company. It was the first operating railroad in Texas and the second railroad west of the Mississippi River. The line was established by General Sidney Sherman, a hero of the Battle of San Jacinto, who in 1847 purchased from the Harrisburg Town Company the unused town lots previously allocated to the failed Harrisburg and Brazos Railroad. The “Colorado” in its name does not refer to the state, but rather,  to the Colorado River of Texas. Obtaining northern investors, Sherman, organized the company in June, 1850 and surveying began the next year near Buffalo Bayou. The next year, the first locomotive, the General Sherman, was received and the first track laid. By August, 1853, 23 miles had been completed from Harrisburg to Stafford Point. The line reached Richmond on the Brazos River in 1855, Eagle Lake in 1859, and Alleyton in 1860, completing 80 miles between Harrisburg and Alleyton.




The Civil War stopped construction and with the financial collapse of Texas during Reconstruction, the line failed. In 1868, it changed owners and became the Galveston, Harrisburg, & San Antonio Railroad. More tracks were then laid towards San Antonio and the new owners also constructed the first telegraphs along the route. After reaching San Antonio, the road was continued to El Paso, where it met the Southern Pacific Railroad and insured that the line's transcontinental route would use the southern portion of Texas rather than the north.


The railroad itself used the nickname Sunset Route, a name that was in general use by 1874 and was later adopted by the Southern Pacific Railroad for the entire line between New Orleans and Los Angeles, California. As early as 1878 the railroad reached an agreement with the Southern Pacific Railroad, regarding the expansion of the Galveston, Harrisburg and San Antonio west of San Antonio. The two companies met up in January, 1883 with a silver spike driven just west of the Pecos River to mark the completion of a new transcontinental route across Texas. The line continued to expand to various cities over the next several decades.


Between March 1, 1885, and June 30, 1889, the Galveston, Harrisburg and San Antonio was leased to the Southern Pacific Company. Before and after that period the company was operated by its own organization until March 1, 1927, when it was leased to the Texas and New Orleans Railroad Company. It was merged into the latter company on June 30, 1934. The Texas and New Orleans lasted until November 1, 1961, when it was merged into the Southern Pacific Railroad. Today, it is the oldest component of the Southern Pacific system.



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